Britain has the least happy teenagers in Europe, at least that’s what a new survey by The Children’s Society tells us. Why might this be? The charity’s chief executive, Mark Russell, believes he knows the reason. It’s down to “the increase in child poverty”, he says.
There are two big problems with this explanation. The first is that “there hasn’t been a rise in child poverty in the UK”. The second is that our children are actually far better off than many others in Europe. Take Spanish youngsters: 82% reported themselves happy in this survey (compared with a mere 64% of their UK peers). Yet a Eurostat study by the European Commission shows they’re of equal risk of poverty or social exclusion as British children. Their peers in Greece, Italy and Romania are at considerably more risk, yet they rank among Europe’s most cheerful teenagers. In fact, the correlation appears to be the opposite of the one Russell identified. It’s not a lack of money; if anything, it’s the “appurtenances of affluence” – feelings of entitlement, social media-fuelled dissatisfaction and envy – that are making our children miserable. (Rod Liddle, The Sunday Times and The Week 5 September 2020).
My comment: Mr. Liddle might have a partial point, but he omits (typically for a conservative) the issue of fear for the future. What is the future for the young, and what do they have to look forward to? I refer to climate change. If the horrendous fires in California and Oregon don’t alert you to the danger, you have your head in the sand. I can hear the unspoken words, “yeah, it’s going to upend the human race, but let me get through my allotted years, comfortable and undisturbed, and let the kids sort it out. Just don’t mess with my cosy way of life – I deserve it.”
Epicurus would, were he alive, would actively opt for addressing the problem head on, as far as is humanly possible. He would spot the lack of ataraxia among the young, and draw the correct conclusions.